This is an article from the June 23, 2008 issue
The five-timepresidential candidate is David Stern's least favorite phone call.
Dan Patrick: Howdo you feel about what Tim Donaghy has said about referees manipulatingresults?
Ralph Nader: Thequestion is his credibility. Obviously he has a self-interest after pleadingguilty to his contacts with gamblers. But he's not the only one to raise that.In the 2002 series between the L.A. Lakers and the Sacramento Kings, it's clearthat the officials favored the Lakers, wanting a seventh game. And David Sternwhitewashed it after a lot of people—from Michael Wilbon, of The WashingtonPost, to me—complained. The NBA is really a giant corporate dictatorship. Andthe players are fined substantially simply for exercising their rights of freespeech. It's in that context that we have to raise these issues.
DP: Can a sportpolice itself?
RN: I don't thinkin this instance that David Stern and the NBA even want to policethemselves.
DP: In 2002 youwrote a letter to the commissioner. What response did you get?
RN: After I wrotethe letter, I called him up and I had a conversation with him. He was cordialbut imperious. He indicated that they would review games. And of course, it wasa whitewash. Nobody admitted mistakes.
DP: Why would thecommissioner expose himself to the possibility of fixing games?
RN: Because itdoesn't have anything to do with gamblers. If it did, the outside system ofcriminal law would come in. But Stern's got an autocratic domain. And becausethe referees are protected by David Stern, there's no accountability. And thatdoesn't mean [the commissioner's office] is directly involved. It means thatreferees who are favorites of the boss know what the boss would like tosee.
DP: Are you aKings fan?
RN: I like theunderdogs. And somebody may say, given all that's going on in the world, thisis pretty minor stuff. But this is a kind of sanctuary for Americans,professional sports. They want to have one area of their lives where they canrespect what's going on. And I'm afraid that this kind of officiating rupturesthat trust.
AS A FORMERCELTIC, Kevin McHale must love seeing his old team in the Finals; as aTimberwolves exec, maybe not. Boston made it thanks to his trade that gave themKevin Garnett and let them keep Rajon Rondo. (McHale reportedly also turneddown a better offer for Garnett from L.A.) It's funny: In 1980 McHale came toBoston in perhaps the NBA's most lopsided trade ever—he and Robert Parish weredealt by the Warriors for Joe Barry Carroll and Rickey Brown. Without thattrade, the '80s Celtics don't happen. In this latest franchise-reviving dealMcHale is on the other end of the fleecing.
IN THE midst ofthe Finals, Kobe Bryant found time for a new turn of phrase: making a coachinto an adjective. When asked about the referee scandal, he apologized for hisnonanswer by saying, "I'm sorry to be Belichicky." I love it! Here aresome other coaches I'd like to add to the vocabulary.
1 TOM COUGHLIN. Asin: "You should see how Coughliny your face is right now."
2 RED AUERBACH. Asin: "Sir, our restaurant no longer allows patrons to getAuerbachy."
3 BOBBY PETRINO.As in: "Would it be too Petrino-ey if I left right now?"
4 BOB KNIGHT. Asin: "Sorry I got so Knighty; I'll buy you some new furniture."
5 KELVIN SAMPSON.As in: "Excuse me for being Sampsony, but I need to take thiscall."
Book Idea of theWeek
AFTER THE Game 4Lakers collapse, I got to thinking: I'd love to see a compilation of columnsthat were written in advance of a game or during an apparent blowout, but neverran because the news changed. I want to read about Big Brown's Triple Crown,Greg Norman taking the 1996 Masters and the Red Sox ending the curse in '86.Beyond being a trip to an alternate reality, the book would be a tribute to theunpredictability of sports, a history of what everyone was absolutely surewould happen—right before it didn't.
THE FINE PRINT:The Iraqi National soccer team won its World Cup qualifying match againstChina. So, the surge is working.
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